CMI REPORT - Chr. Michelsen Institute

 
CMI REPORT - Chr. Michelsen Institute
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                                               NUMBER 2

                                 CMI REPORT
                                               J U N E 2 0 21

    AUTHORS
    Siri Neset
                                  Turkey as a regional security actor
    Chr. Michelsen Institute
    Mustafa Aydin
                                  in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean,
    Kadir Has University and
    International Relations       and the Levant Region
    Council of Turkey
                                  This report analyzes Turkey’s current foreign policy and its pronounced
    Evren Balta
    Özyegin University and        role as a regional security actor. It pinpoints deeper determinants and
    Istanbul Policy Center        limitations of the policies that can be observed in different theatres
    Kaan Kutlu Ataç               of involvement. It identifies perceptions of policy makers and their
    Mersin University
                                  political allies about Turkey’s needs, goals, limitations, and national role
    Hasret Dikici Bilgin
    Istanbul Bilgi University     conceptions as well as what drives decision makers in their choices.
    Arne Strand                   The report concludes with an overall framework for analysis in terms
    Chr. Michelsen Institute      of Turkey as a regional security actor.
CMI REPORT - Chr. Michelsen Institute
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    TABLE OF CONTENTS
    Introduction .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4

    Section I: Understanding Turkey’s Strategic Thinking .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  5

    Key Determining Factors  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6
    Strategic Geographical Position  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6
    Impact of International System .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6
    Ideational Inclinations of the Ruling Elite .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 7
    Goals Hierarchy and Policy Drivers  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 8
    Siege Mentality and the General Feeling of Insecurity  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 9
    Domestic Power Consolidation  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 11
    Maintaining/Increasing Capabilities through Development .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 14

    Contemporary National Role Conceptions  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
    Regional Security Actor .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 16

    Strategic Patterns of Behavior .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 17
    Balancing (and Countering) Major Powers in International Relations	������������������������������ 17
    Attaining Regional Supremacy through Power Projection in Near Abroad 	��������������������� 19

    Section II: Balancing Actions in Turkish Foreign Policy .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  21

    Balancing Between Russia and the West .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 21
    Turkey and the West  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 22
    Relations with Russia  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 25

    Balancing the Regions .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 28
    Turkey in the Black Sea  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 29
    Turkey in the Middle East .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 30
    Turkey in the Mediterranean .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 32

    Balance of Turkey’s Balancing Act: “Make Turkey Great Again”	�������������������������������������34

    Section III: Projecting Influence Beyond Borders: Capacity vs. Ambition                                                                                 37

    The Discourse on Ambitions  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 37
    Leadership and Decision-Making Capacity  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 39
    The Economy .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .40
    Strength of Alliance/Partnership Structures .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 41
    Military Capacity as a Continuation of Politics  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .43
    Intelligence: A New Dimension in Foreign Policy  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 45
    Stability, Security and Recovery Programs .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 46

    Conclusions .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  49
    Turkey as a Regional Security Actor  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 49

    Bibliography  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  53
    About the authors .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  61
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TABLE OF FIGURES
Figure 1:
Do you think following countries threaten Turkey?  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 10

Figure 2:
Support for Military Presence Abroad  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .12

Figure 3:
Support for Military Presence Abroad by Party Affiliation  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .13

Figure 4:
Support for Cross Border Operations .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .13

Figure 5:
Support for cross-border operations by party affiliation .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .13

Figure 6:
Turkish Overseas Military Presence in Numbers as of January 2020. .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .20

Figure 7:
Public Support for Mending Relations with Other Countries .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .42

Figure 8:
Turkey as a Security Actor – Overall Framework  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 51
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INTRODUCTION
This report analyzes Turkey’s role as a regional security actor in the Black Sea, the Mediterranean
and the Levant regions.1
    The research team’s interdisciplinary background has guided the research, allowing a comprehensive
assessment from a wide range of perspectives, as no single theoretical framework could holistically
explain Turkey as a security actor. The overall framework used in this project mainly grounded in
the neo/realist tradition of International Relations, but it also heavily benefits from various foreign
policy analysis methodologies and a political psychology approach.
    The original data used in this report was collected through closed online seminars with international
and Turkish experts on different aspects of the project, online in-depth semi-structured interviews
with experts and political elites from various political backgrounds, online free-flowed conversations
with academics, experts, officials and advisors in Turkey and internationally. A comprehensive analysis
of statements made by key political figures between January 1, 2015 and September 15, 2020 was
also conducted.
    During the project period, from July to December 2020, we have witnessed increased tensions
in Syria, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean, and the resumption of war between Armenia and
Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. The pace of unfolding security-threatening developments in
Turkey’s neighborhood is by no means extraordinary and indicates the complexity and the gravity of
the issues the Turkish decision-makers have to deal with regularly in their near abroad.
    Through this research, the team have identified key factors that guide the Turkish leadership
in their strategic thinking concerning general foreign policy making and regional security issues.
The research also reveals some of the long-term relational patterns between Turkey and its Western
partners, and more recently with Russia. The report will reveal how Turkey is balancing its relations
and policies between regions, between outside and inside actors, as well as between different actors
to a varying impact in diverse theaters of operation.
    In evaluating/mapping Turkey’s national capacity to cope with all the issues arising in its
neighborhood, the research has identified a set of key variables affecting country’s defense/military
capacity. As such, it has enabled us to sketch out a framework to understand the contours of Turkey’s
role conception as a regional security actor.
    The report is structured in three parts. The first part addresses Turkey’s historical and current
strategic thinking and looks at the country’s foreign and security policies from a conceptual perspective.
The second part looks at Turkey’s balancing acts between east and west, between Russia and its long-
time allies, and among its regions. The third section assesses the balance between Turkey’s capacity vs.
ambition in projecting influence beyond its borders. The concluding section sketches out an overall
framework for analysis in terms of Turkey as a regional security actor.

1    This report is based on a research project funded through a grant to CMI from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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SECTION I: UNDERSTANDING TURKEY’S STRATEGIC THINKING
Whether consciously admitted or not, all countries follow long-term strategies, which are similar
to highways, connecting one point in the past to a point in future passing through the present. As
such, they politically and psychologically connect to an overall appreciation of a country including
its history, cultural and ideological underpinnings, geographic realities, economic capabilities,
future expectations, and understanding of its national interests as defined and constantly revived by
its elites. These strategies provide a general framework and direction to the policy makers in their
deliberations and daily actions.
    It is common to come across public sentiments expressed in popular media and by political
figures that “Turkey lacks a strategy” in its foreign policy.2 In recent years, this has been coupled
with statements emphasizing that Turkey’s foreign policy decision-making has become increasingly
centralized, idiocentric and aligned with the whims of its decision makers. Similarly, at the international
level, there is no clear agreement on whether or not Turkey has a coherent general strategy through
which its leadership formulates various governmental policies and allocates the country’s resources.3
    This lack of clarity about Turkey’s strategy is partly because Turkey does not have a tradition of
publishing an official strategy or doctrine for its foreign and security policies, although various versions
of the unpublished National Security Policy Document contain indications of an overall understanding
of a strategy. Similarly, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of National Defense
do not usually share their policy directions and overall policy frameworks. Nevertheless, when
looking through several decades of policy behaviour, one can identify several patterns of conduct
that are consistent over the years and have survived governmental changes. Codified as patterns of
Turkey’s grand strategy,4 these “structural determinants” of Turkish foreign policy5 could guide us
in our long-term search for a general framework explaining Turkey’s foreign and security behaviour
in its neighborhood.
    Some of these patterns are also observable behind the policy lines of the current Turkish leadership,
although they are not often mentioned in public and some of the implementation practices have
substantially differed from the pre-AKP era governments. It could be argued that the current

2    For recent examples, see Cook, S.A. (2020). Erdogan is Libya’s man without a plan. Foreign Policy. https://foreignpolicy.
      com/2020/07/09/erdogan-is-libyas-man-without-a-plan/; Selcen, A. (2020). “Ankara’s foreign policy rationale”. Duvar English.
      https://www.duvarenglish.com/ankaras-foreign-policy-rationale-article-55552
3    Aydinli, E. (2020). “Neither Ideological nor Geopolitical: Turkey Needs a ‘Growth’-Based Grand Strategy”. Perceptions, 25 (2),
     Autum/Winter: 227-252; Oğuzlu, T. (2021). “Grand strategy: Turkey as a resilient middle power”. Daily Sabah. https://www.
      dailysabah.com/opinion/op-ed/grand-strategy-turkey-as-a-resilient-middle-power.
4    Aydin, M. (2020a), “Grand Strategizing in and for Turkish Foreign Policy: Lessons Learned from History, Geography, and
      Practice”. Perceptions, 25 (2), Autumn/Winter: 203-226.
5    Originally defined by Aydin, M. (1999), “Determinants of Turkish foreign policy: historical framework and traditional inputs”.
      Middle Eastern Studies, 35 (9): 152-186, this conceptualization was utilized in S. Neset, M. Aydin, M., Bilgin, H. Gürcan,
     A. M. Strand (2019). Turkish foreign policy: structures and decision-making processes. CMI Report. https://www.cmi.no/
      publications/6854-turkish-foreign-policy-structures-and-decision-making-processes to situate current Turkish foreign policy
      making in a wider framework.
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    government is not willing to admit that publicly because they have been forced to follow similar
    strategic policies to its predecessors through the pressure of structural determinants (i.e., Turkey’s
    geography, history, socio-cultural characteristics, and the impact of international system). The
    long-term patterns of Turkish foreign and security policies, which could be classified as linchpins of
    Turkish strategic thinking, are briefly explained below.

    Key Determining Factors

    Strategic Geographical Position

    Although Turkey has undergone profound changes since the 1920s, the value of its geographical
    position has not significantly altered – even if its relative importance to other states has varied over
    time. Turkey’s multidimensional geography has been used for political and economic benefit, but also
    represents a source of weakness when taking into account the number and combination of its neighbors.
    Some of the challenges resulting from Turkey’s historical existence in this geography include: civil
    wars in Iraq and Syria, a divided Cyprus, dissonance with Armenians, and an inability to reconcile
    with the Kurds. The importance and value of the location is further highlighted by recent increased
    international attention towards several regional conflicts in Turkey’s vicinity in recent decades.
    While the dramatic changes in the international system following the end of the Cold War and the
    contours of a changing world order had earlier challenged Turkey’s traditional policy of isolating
    itself from regional politics, it also forced Turkey to add regional components to its foreign policy,
    necessitating a renewed emphasis on its multidimensional setting and its role in bridging different
    cultures and geographies. With this understanding of Turkey as a European, Eurasian, and Middle
    Eastern country, Turkey’s political elites embraced its new positioning with multiple identities and
    historical assets. The reimagining of Turkey’s geography and role should be one of the key elements
    in understanding its contemporary regional policies.

    Impact of International System

    Turkey is a country that is closely attuned to the changes in international system. While it was
    able to attain certain level of internal and external autonomy after its independence,6 the post-1945
    bipolar international system forced Turkey to choose a side as “a policy of neutrality was not very
    realistic or possible for a country like Turkey, a middle-range power situated in such a geopolitically
    important area”.7 The Cold War, while encouraging Turkey’s dependency on the West, also sustained
    unquestioning Western military, political, and economic support. As long as Turkey was threatened
    by the Soviet Union and the US was committed to assisting Turkey’s economic development and
    defense, there was no reason to question Turkey’s dependency on the West. However, the collapse of
    the USSR and the changing context from the 1990s has resulted in a reorientation of Turkish policy.
    In the 1990s, Turkey became a more assertive regional power, especially in Central Asia and the
    Caucasus. While during the Cold War, Turkey remained firmly within the Western bloc, since the
    end of the Cold War, its foreign relations have been dominated by a search for alternative connections.
       Ten years after the end of the Cold War, the 9/11 attacks on the US and the Arab uprisings
    from 2011 onwards dramatically affected Turkish foreign policy. While Turkey benefitted from
    closer relations with the US in the immediate post-Cold War era, the US insistence to play a direct
    ordering role in Turkey’s neighborhood in the post 9/11 era – in the Caucasus, the Black Sea, and
    especially the Levant – has led to diverging interests and security perceptions. This divergence further
    accentuated after the Arab uprisings.

    6   For the concept of internal and external autonomy in Turkish foreign policy see Oran, B. (ed.), (2010). Turkish foreign policy, 1919-
        2006. Salt Lake City, Univ. of Utah Press: 15, Box: Intro 6.
    7   Aron, R. (1973). Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations. New York, Anchor & Doubleday: 125-127.
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    Furthermore, the primacy of Western actors in international politics has come into question
because of the global financial crisis of 2008 and the China’s impressive economic growth. Other
drivers challenging Western dominance include the rise of national populism, failure of Western
migration policies, and Russia’s resurgence.8 Turkey has adapted to changing circumstances in the
international fora and has increasingly focused on its neighborhoods –the Balkans and the Black
Sea in the 2000s, and the Middle East since early 2010s. While there were both security/strategic
reasons and ideological/political choices for this change, the underlying change in the international
system has also played an important determining role.
    More recently, Turkey has had a window of opportunity to assert itself as a regional power due
to these systemic changes, coupled with the partial withdrawal of the US from its international
engagements around Turkey, Europe’s struggle with resurgent Russia, and mixed outcomes of the
Arab uprisings for regional geopolitics.

Ideational Inclinations of the Ruling Elite

In establishing the Turkish republic, the ruling elite carried out radical reforms to transform the
country into a secular state and provided the basis of Western orientation, which became a key part of
Turkish foreign policy during the 20th century.9 The Turkish elite’s focus on the West was accentuated
in the 1990s and 2000s with a full membership bid to the EU and the subsequent negotiations
which helped Turkey’s democratic transition and accelerated its international standing. The common
understanding among Turkish elite at this time was that without its European connection, Turkey
would be just another country in the Middle East. This belief paved the way for closer cooperation.
However, the shared vision for Turkey’s future among its political, economic, and bureaucratic elite
soon withered away and Turkey began to move away from the EU and started looking for alternatives
in its neighborhood. While Turkey’s EU negotiations stalled as a result of a complex interaction of
various political, cultural and economic developments both in the EU and in Turkey, Turkey’s Western
vocation was increasingly questioned from cultural, national and security perspectives.
    The rise of new political elite with the Justice and Development Party’s (Adalet ve Kalkınma
Partisi – AKP) and the consolidation of its power in Turkish politics has also affected this change.
Although exclusively pro-Western in its first term, a short review of the literature since 2007 when
AKP started its second term in office, reveals that the new elite had solidified its approach to foreign
policy with what was conventionally labeled as “the Turkish Model.” The Turkish model referred to
the uniqueness of Turkey as a regional power and underlined its ideational role in Turkey’s neighboring
regions – especially in the Middle East. The Turkish model was supported by the country’s proactive
foreign policy and its use of “soft power” tools.10 In the words of the then-Chief Foreign Policy
Adviser to the Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s new proactive foreign policy redefined
it as a “provider of security and stability” in its neighborhood.1 1 While the transformation of
Turkish foreign policy away from its traditional model focusing on its Western connection towards
a country with a role as regional security actor had started before AKP came to power,1 2 from 2007
the AKP-related elite tilted the balance of Turkey’s attention to its regions to the detriment of its
internationally balanced position. Furthermore, the threats posed by the rising global security issues
over the last couple of decades while Turkey’s economic capabilities were concomitantly improving,

8    Oğuzlu, T. (2020). “Yeni Dünya Düzeni ve Türkiye: Nasıl Bir Dış Politika?” Panorama, 18 January, https://www.uikpanorama.
      com/blog/2020/01/18/yeni-dunya-duzeni-ve-turkiye-nasil-bir-dis-politika/.
9    Sander, O. (1984). “Turkish Foreign Policy; Forces of Continuity and of Change”. In A. Evin (ed.), Modern Turkey; Continuity and
     Change. Opladen, Leske Verlag: 115-130.
10 Altunışık, M. B. (2005). “The Turkish Model and Democratization in the Middle East”. Arab Studies Quarterly, 27 (1/2): 45-63;
      Fotiou, E. and D. Triantaphyllou (2010). “Assessing Turkey’s ‘Soft Power’ Role: Rhetoric versus Practice”. The International Spectator,
     45 (1): 99-113.
11 Davutoglu, A. (2008). “Turkey’s Foreign Policy Vision: An Assessment of 2007”. Insight Turkey, 10 (1): 77-96.
1 2 Aydın, M. (2005). Turkish Foreign Policy; Framework and Analysis. Ankara, Strategic Research Center.
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     enabled Turkey to position itself as a regional security actor.1 3 The policy proved to be successful
     and further intensified the willingness of Turkey’s new elite to pursue even more assertive policy in
     its neighborhoods – especially in the Middle East.14

     Goals Hierarchy and Policy Drivers

     Any country’s foreign policy goals are usually derived from the country’s overarching national
     interests and general strategy. In the Turkish case, many analysts have attempted to identify and
     explain the rationale behind Turkey’s recent foreign policy activism, often by relying on some specific
     variable such as Islamist ideology,1 5 the electoral alliance between the AKP and the ultranationalist
     Nationalist Action Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi – MHP)16 or past injustices as perceived by the
     current leadership.17
        Through our research and interviews and conversations with political elite and experts close to
     the foreign policy decision-making units, we have pursued a bottom-up approach to identify these
     goals, coming up with an aggregate goals hierarchy pursued by the Turkish leaders in foreign policy
     arena. They are:

     •    Attaining strategic autonomy with a capability to maintain the country’s survival on its own,
          which involves having a flexible orientation in foreign policy, not compromising on perceived
          national interests and the essential issues for Turkey’s survival, security, and strategy, while at
          the same time not alienating possible or potential allies, as well as ensuring the continuation of
          foreign investments.
     •    Forging new partnerships while maintaining traditional alliances, together with a policy of strategic
          balancing to reduce Turkey’s over-dependence on its allies and to avoid direct confrontation with
          Russia.
     •    Becoming an exceptional country in its region to achieve material and political regional supremacy
          and respect, which would necessitate strengthening the military, expanding its footprint abroad
          with cross-border operations and/or military bases, and increasing its independence through

     13
          Bayer, R. and E. F. Keyman (2012). “Turkey: An Emerging Hub of Globalization and Internationalist Humanitarian Actor?”.
          Globalizations, 9 (1): 73–90; Erickson, E. J. (2004). “Turkey as Regional Hegemon: Strategic Implications for the United States”.
          Turkish Studies, 5 (3): 25-45; Barrinha, A. (2014). “The Ambitious Insulator: Revisiting Turkey’s Position in Regional Security
          Complex Theory.” Mediterranean Politics, 19 (2): 165-82; Martin, L. G. (2009). “Turkey as a Trans-Regional Actor.” Turkish Studies
          10 (1): 3–6; Özkan, M. and S. Orakçı (2015). “Viewpoint: Turkey as a ‘Political’ Actor in Africa – an Assessment of Turkish
          Involvement in Somalia.” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9 (2): 343–52; Parlar Dal, E. (2016). “Conceptualizing and Testing the
          ‘Emerging Regional Power’ of Turkey in the Shifting International Order.” Third World Quarterly 37 (8): 1425–53; Öniş, Z. and M.
          Kutlay (2017). “The Dynamics of Emerging Middle Power Influence in Regional and Global Governance: The Paradoxical Case of
          Turkey.” Australian Journal of International Affairs 71 (2): 164–83.
     14    Ayata, B. (2015). “Turkish Foreign Policy in a Changing Arab World: Rise and Fall of Regional Actor?” Journal of European
          Integration 37 (1): 95–112; Güney, A. and H. D. Bilgin (2014). “Model Countries in Political Analysis: Is Turkey a Model for State
          Building in the Arab World?”. Jean Monnet Occasional Paper No:10; Taşpınar, O. (2012). “Turkey’s Middle East Policies: Between
          Neo-Ottomanism and Kemalism.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. December 6, https://carnegieendowment.
          org/2008/10/07/turkey-s-middle-east-polic%20%20es-between-neo-ottomanism-and-kemalism/39k; Taşpınar, O. (2014). “The
          End of the Turkish Model.” Survival 56 (2): 49–64; Parlar Dal, E. and E. Erşen (2014). “Reassessing the ‘Turkish Model’ in the
          Post-Cold War Era: A Role Theory Perspective.” Turkish Studies 15 (2): 258–82; Aydın, M. (2009). “Geographical Blessing versus
          Geopolitical Curse: Great Power Security Agendas for the Black Sea Region and a Turkish Alternative.” Southeast European and
          Black Sea Studies 9 (3): 271–85; Celikpala, M. (2010). “Escalating Rivalries and Diverging Interests: Prospects for Stability and
          Security in the Black Sea Region.” Southeast European and Black Sea Studies 10 (3): 287–302; Aydin, M. (2014). “Turkish Policy
          towards the Wider Black Sea and the EU Connection.” Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies 16 (3): 383–97.
     1 5 Ozkan, B. (2014). “Turkey, Davutoglu and the Idea of Pan-Islamism”. Survival, 56 (4): 119-140, https://doi.org/10.1080/00396338.
          2014.941570.
     16 https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/29/the-myth-of-erdogans-power/
     17 https://www.gmfus.org/events/turkeys-foreign-policy-conversation-ibrahim-kalin
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     development of domestic military industry and acquisition of much-needed weapons systems
     (such as S-400s) to defend itself alone.

Through this analysis of these prioritized goals, we can see that attaining strategic autonomy for the
country in its foreign and domestic politics, often linked to Turkey’s survival in rhetoric, ranks at the
top. Although the pursuit of autonomy in foreign policy began after the end of the Cold War and was
further developed during the Davutoğlu era, it was significantly reinforced by the approach taken
by the US and Europe in the aftermath of the attempted coup in 2016.18 The other goals, although
are important in their own right, are seen as sub-goals that enable Turkey to achieve this strategic
autonomy. The concept of autonomy here should be read being independent of foreign pressures in
its policy making. It also includes the wish of Turkey’s political elites to have further flexibility in
policy making regarding its commitments to the Western institutions. In other words, regardless
of its membership to the Western institutions, Turkey’s political elites want to act in line with the
West when it suits its interests and act with non-Western partners or independently, whichever best
suits its national interests, without feeling undue constraints from formal alliances and partnerships.
    Our project also addressed the main drivers behind the above-mentioned foreign policy goals of
contemporary Turkish leaders, as a full understanding of any country’s foreign policy can only come
when the motivation behind goals and policy lines is understood. The drivers here are understood as
the activating issues, situations and perceptions that motivate the Turkish leadership to act towards
fulfilling their chosen goals and national role conceptions. The following sections; Siege Mentality and
the General Feeling of Insecurity, Domestic Power Consolidation, and Maintaining/Increasing Capabilities
through Development, though not an exhaustive list, summarizes the most commonly considered
drivers for Turkey’s recent activism in its foreign policy.

Siege Mentality and the General Feeling of Insecurity

Turkey has been a security-minded state since its inception with international security concerns at
the top of the agenda. This securitized tradition emphasizes the protection of territorial integrity,
political independence and non-intervention in regional conflicts. Although the principle of non-
intervention in regional conflicts has been eschewed since the end of the Cold War, the “security
first” principle –which is closely tied to sovereignty– continues to shape Turkish strategic thinking.
While the Turkish approach to security has traditionally been nationalist and NATO-centric, in
recent years, it has shifted to highlight its autonomy in its neighborhood and defend its national
interests more closely. This prioritization of security is not only seen in the decision-makers level,
but is also reflected in public opinion (see Figure 1), which continually highlights the widespread
threats it perceives from all quarters.

18 Falk, R. (2018). “Through a Glass Darkly: The Past, Present, and Future of Turkish Foreign Policy”. In: Parlar Dal, E. (eds), Middle
     Powers in Global Governance. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.: 33-51.
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     FIGURE 1: DO YOU THINK FOLLOWING COUNTRIES THREATEN TURKEY?

       COUNTRY                     YES                          NO                           I DON’T KNOW

       USA                         70,0                         16,6                         13,4

       ISRAEL                      66,7                         17,5                         15,8

       SYRIA                       65,4                         19,3                         15,3

       IRAN                        59,0                         22,0                         19,0

       GREECE                      58,9                         23,0                         18,1

       ARMENIA                     58,6                         22,5                         18,9

       IRAQ                        56,5                         24,8                         18,7

       RUSSIA                      55,0                         26,6                         18,4

       UK                          54,7                         26,6                         18,7

       FRANCE                      53,8                         27,9                         18,3

       GERMANY                     48,7                         32,8                         18,5

     Source: Aydın, M., et all. (2020). Quantitative Research Report on Public Perceptions on Turkish Foreign Policy –
     2020. İstanbul, Kadir Has University and Akademetre, 17 June.

     It is frequently argued that Turkey still suffers from a “Sèvres syndrome” – fear of dismemberment
     through foreign intrigues and interventions.19 This fear for country’s survival has been exacerbated
     in recent years with the internationalization of the Kurdish issue, especially in connection with its
     borders with Syria and Iraq where international terror groups can move across mountainous areas.
     As such, Turkey’s recent military operations in Syria, while countering the threat perceived from
     these regions beyond the Turkish border, also allows Turkey to maintain and control a security or a
     buffer zone to prevent border crossings.
         Another aspect of the “siege mentality” and the “general feeling of insecurity” is the perception
     of loneliness, augmented by a reality that Turkey has few allies in a very complex and conflict-ridden
     neighborhood. This feeling is enhanced by a belief that its allies, such as European countries and the
     US, “are not always acting in tandem with Turkey on economic, political, or security issues”.2 0 The
     feeling of betrayal by the allies (re)surfaced due to the US’s close cooperation with the Democratic
     Union Party of Syria (PYD) and its military wing – the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), which are
     affiliated with the PKK. However, this dissonance between the threat perceptions of Turkey and
     its allies is not only due to the actions taken (or to be specific “not taken”) by its Western allies in
     Syria, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean, but also exacerbated by the Western (in)action in the
     aftermath of the coup d’état attempt in July 2016.2 1
         The Kurdish issue has been a driving force for Turkish politics on multiple levels: in defining the
     nature of the domestic political alliances, reconfiguring Turkey’s regional aspirations, defining its
     approach to other regional countries, and limiting relations with its international partners. Indeed, the
     Kurdish issue has frequently been described as one of the “major determinants of domestic political
     consolidation” among the military, the bureaucracy, and the political establishment.2 2

     19 Drakoularakos, S. (2020). “Turkey and Erdoğan’s rising “Lausanne Syndrome.” Digest of Middle East Studies. doi:10.1111/
         dome.12224; Tharoor, I. (2020). “A century-old treaty haunts the Mediterranean”. Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.
         com/world/2020/08/10/treaty-sevres-erdogan-turkey/.
     2 0 Online interview with an academic working at a think thank close to the AKP, September 2020.
     21 Online interview with a conservative Turkish expert working for international think-tanks, September 2020.
     2 2 All experts and political elites that were interviewed listed, when asked, the “Kurdish issue” amongst their top three drivers for
         Turkish foreign policy.
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    Recent external threat perceptions also include developments from 2019 in the Eastern
Mediterranean, where, feeling encircled by several countries, Turkey hastily designed a combination
of diplomatic and military responses which drew the country into the Libyan Civil War and resulted
in a clash with Greece in the Mediterranean and Aegean.
    Internal threat perceptions have been successfully externalized with continuing internal and cross
border operations against the PKK and the Fethullah Gülen affiliated persons and groups. In fact,
after the failed coup attempt in 2016, large parts of Turkey’s foreign and security policies have been
geared towards dealing with domestic and external factions of what is now called Fethullah Gülen
Terror Organization (FETÖ) and the growing autonomy of the Kurdish groups in Northeastern Syria
that is supported and protected by the US. At the same time, the government’s attempts to build
civilian oversight and monitoring mechanisms over the military from early 2000s onwards was first
aided by the EU integration processes, which the government frequently used as justification for its
reforms and crack downs on Ankara’s bureaucratic tutelage regime. Later on, the process intensified
with the implementation of the Presidential system and an even tighter grip of the political (civil)
control over the military with the cooption of former Chief of General Staff, General Hulisi Akar,
as the new all-powerful Minister of Defence.
    The fear of dismemberment and loss of territory continues to hound Turkish national security
thinking. As President Erdoğan declared in his Victory Day speech on August 29, 2019, “Turkey
pursues [the] same determination to protect its national survival as it did 97 years ago”. 2 3 Hence, the
shadow of the Sèvres Syndrome continues to impact both Turkish public opinion and the political
elite. The primary concern of Turkish political elites and the top decision-makers seem to be keeping
the state as a “stable territory surrounded by a volatile milieu”. To achieve this, Turkey has recently
moved from a defensive position to a more offensive one. As such, recent changes in positioning
in Iraq, Syria, and the Eastern Mediterranean have forced Turkey to re-think its national security
architecture and foreign policy and security strategies. In response to recent regional geopolitical
changes, President Erdoğan stated in January 2020 that “Turkey will continue to vigorously defend
its rights and interests abroad. The country’s future and security begin far beyond its borders”. 2 4
Similarly, the decision to send troops to Libya was presented in Turkey as a “rejection of claims
against Turkey’s interests” and attempts to force Turkey to submit international forces that conspire
against Turkish interests. This is in contrast to how it was framed from abroad as Turkey “flexing its
muscles” and attempting “to become a power broker in a volatile region”.
    According to Erdoğan Turkey has risen under his administration to a position where its voice is
heard on every regional and global issue. As a result, unnamed “international powers” are continuously
presented to the public as trying to undermine Turkish power to prevent it from becoming an influential
country “again” with power to shape the world. Thus, Turkey today wages “a struggle against those
who seek to -yet again- condemn Turkey to modern-day capitulations.”

Domestic Power Consolidation

Another important driver behind Turkey’s foreign policy activism in recent years has been the electoral
alliance created between the AKP and MHP, as well as nationalists and Eurasianist groups within
the state apparatus in general. The alliance clearly drives current Turkish policies in Iraq and Syria,
and is increasingly affecting various foreign policy issues, especially in relation to Turkey’s Western
alliance and the Kurdish question. Turkey’s Syria policies have become increasingly tangled with
domestic political developments and the AKP’s need for domestic support to stay in power.
    Many surveys have already shown that in the long-term foreign policy actions do not garner more votes
for the government. However, in the case of, for example, Turkey’s cross-border military operations, the

2 3 https://www.tccb.gov.tr/en/speeches-statements/558/109410/message-on-august-30-victory-day
2 4 https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/turkeys-security-begins-far-beyond-borders-erdogan/1697901
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      stimulated issue-based support due to “rally around the flag” concept 2 5 can be seen at two levels:
      a) It works in reality as a short-term “rally around the leader” effect. Hence the expectation among the
      government circles that, should the public support for the leader increases in the short term, this could be
      translated into a long-term voting intention if sustained with similar policies down the line; and
      b) In almost all cases in Turkey, the public exhibits increased support for the nation and troops while
      an operation is taking place, which creates a vicious circle of operations after operations in an attempt
      to keep the support up. Although this does not necessarily translate into a long-term voting behavior,
      it could be kept alive if the sentiments could be sustained through series of such interventions abroad.
     Hence, many analysts argue that the government continues to create foreign policy situations where
      military force or coercive means can be used repeatedly.2 6
          For example, several public polls conducted by the Metropoll Polling after the four operations in
      Syria showed that these cross-border operations garnered around 70% overall support.2 7 However,
      the same poll also showed that this support came as the second version of the “rally around the flag”
      concept, and the overall support did not transform into the “rally around the leader” model – and
      did not translate into votes.
          In the structured webinars organized for this project, experts argued that the public support for
      the operations in Syria came from a clearer understanding of the threat.2 8 However, looking at the
     Eastern Mediterranean, different results appear – a September 2020 poll shows that only 23% of the
      population supported military solutions while 75% preferred non-military policy options.2 9 Thus,
      although the government’s rhetoric feeds the nationalistic sentiments of the population, without an
      accepted enemy image or a clear threat perception, the majority of the population is against military
      escalations.
          Figures 2-5 show that military presence abroad (bases, other installations and Turkey’s cross-
      border operations against terrorist groups) garner higher support among the voter base of the MHP
     – even more than AKP constituency. This extends the government’s activist – i.e. use of threats and
      force – foreign policy that we have seen in recent years.

     FIGURE 2: SUPPORT FOR MILITARY PRESENCE ABROAD

     Do you support Turkey’s military presence and/or establishing military bases abroad?

       YES                      NO                        NO OPINION

       36,8                     35,6                      27,6

     Source: Aydin, M. et all. (2020), Quantitative Research Report on Public Perceptions on Turkish Foreign Policy –
     2020. İstanbul, Kadir Has University & Akademetre, 17 June.

     2 5 For discussions on the phenomenon see Baum, M. A. (2002). “The constituent foundations of the rally-round-the-flag phenomenon”.
          International Studies Quarterly, 46 (2): 263-298.
     2 6 See for example: Bremmer, I. (2021). How Erdogan’s increasingly erratic rule in Turkey presents a risk to the world. Time, https://
          time.com/5943435/turkey-erdogan-increasingly-autocratic/; N.a. (2020). Turkey’s increasingly assertive foreign policy. Strategic
          Comments, 26(6), iv–vi. doi:10.1080/13567888.2020.1830557; Online interview with an Istanbul based liberal Turkish expert within
          think-tank community, August 2020.
     2 7 See Zeitgeist Turkey | Episode 18: Does conflict-oriented foreign policy rally votes for Ankara?, October 22, 2020, https://www.
          duvarenglish.com/podcast/2020/10/22/zeitgeist-turkey-episode-18-does-conflict-oriented-foreign-policy-rally-votes-for-ankara/.
          In the podcast the co-host Can Selçuki, who presents the numbers, do not specify the exact dates of the different polls.
     2 8 “Turkey as a Regional Security Actor” on September 21, 2020. The webinar was organized by the Project Team online to discuss
          relevant issues with experts of Turkish foreign an security policies based on a pre-structured discussion themes. It was not recorded
          and conducted on the basis of “Chattam House Rules”.
     2 9 Zeitgeist Turkey | Episode 18.
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FIGURE 3: SUPPORT FOR MILITARY PRESENCE ABROAD BY PART Y
AFFILIATION

  PARTY                  YES            NO              NO IDEA

  AKP                    51,1           19,8            29,1

  CHP                    19,9           54,1            26,0

  MHP                    60,4           17,7            21,9

  HDP                    6,0            66,0            28,0

  IYIP                   28,2           45,9            25,9

Source: Aydin, M. et all. (2020), Quantitative Research Report on Public Perceptions on Turkish Foreign Policy –
2020. İstanbul, Kadir Has University & Akademetre, 17 June.

FIGURE 4: SUPPORT FOR CROSS BORDER OPER ATIONS

In general, do you support Turkey’s cross-border operations?

  YES                            NO              NO OPINION

   41,2                          35,8            23,0

Source: Aydin, M. et all. (2020), Quantitative Research Report on Public Perceptions on Turkish Foreign Policy –
2020. İstanbul, Kadir Has University & Akademetre, 17 June.

FIGURE 5: SUPPORT FOR CROSS-BORDER OPER ATIONS BY PART Y
AFFILIATION

  PARTY                  YES            NO              NO IDEA

  AKP                    54,1           22,6            23,4

  CHP                    29,1           47,4            23,5

  MHP                    57,3           22,9            19,8

  HDP                    13,0           66.0            21,0

  IYIP                   31,8           43,5            24,7

Source: Aydin, M. et all. (2020), Quantitative Research Report on Public Perceptions on Turkish Foreign Policy –
2020. İstanbul, Kadir Has University & Akademetre, 17 June.

Some of our interviewees argued that President Erdoğan pursues various foreign policy actions in
order to increase his hold on power. Others argued that policy making is driven by “whatever works
to raise the popularity of the government at home, regardless of the long-term consequences”.3 0 In
the context of the poll results in figures 2–5, the popularity hike is pursued to a temporary effect
and does not seem to translate into actual votes in the longer term. As such, foreign policy, seen
to underpin President Erdoğan’s domestic political trajectories and his strategy to hold the current
coalition together, reflects a highly nationalistic approach. On the other hand, some argue that Turkey’s
geopolitical reach and wish to dominate its neighborhood has overcome the political divide, meaning

3 0 Online interview with a conservative Turkish expert within the international think-tank community, September 2020.
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     that a change of government would only make a small difference in terms of Turkey’s challenges
     and its responses to them.31 However, we need to underline the fact that foreign policy plays a key
     role in holding together the domestic political coalition that AKP has established with the MHP.

     Maintaining/Increasing Capabilities through Development

     From the early days of the republic, increasing the nation’s wealth and industrial development has
     been seen as both a way to increase the welfare of its citizens and also to extend the country’s power
     base. It has also had an international component due to country’s chosen manner of development.
     Thus, by the end of the Second World War, Turkey favored closer relations with the West – both
     because of security concerns, and also though a realization that the country needed extensive economic
     support to stimulate the economy after years of austerity. In the post-war period, the US was the only
     country with the capacity to expand economic aid to Turkey, a fact that was clear through Turkey
     signing agreements with the US that, in terms of security, were based on the Truman Doctrine and
     economically on the Marshall Plan. It is important to note that Turkey joined the Organization for
     European Economic Cooperation (OECD’s predecessor) in 1948, four years before joining NATO.
     Since then, Turkey-US relations have always had the two pillars of economy and security, which
     were finally linked with the signing of Defense and Economic Cooperation Agreement (DECA) in
     March 1980. This agreement allowed US access to 26 military facilities in Turkey in return for an
     extensive military and economic aid package.3 2
         In the 1980s, as the demands from the growing Turkish population and dysfunctional Turkish
     economy forced Turkey to open up and integrate with the global economy, Turkey’s Western
     connection was again strengthened. It also led to the unprecedented move by the then President
     Özal to articulate his “Economy First” principle, putting it briefly ahead of security and foreign
     policies. Similarly, Turkey’s opening to its neighboring regions in the 1990s and 2000s related to
     the needs of a growing economy, demands of the middle classes, and aspirations of a young and
     increasingly educated population. These aspects of Turkey’s international connections do not simply
     derive from the preferences of the ruling classes or the wishes of a leader, but reflect a long-standing
     structural imperative that is not easily alleviated by choices or preferences of different governments
     or decision makers.
         Thus, to achieve Turkey’s long-term domestic goal of a sustained economic growth becomes an
     important imperative behind pursuing a foreign policy that does not alienate potential investors and
     the country’s trade partners. More recently, Turkey’s attempts to diversify its external trade base by
     extending to the Middle East and Africa also clearly relates to this, and connects to Turkey’s earlier
     active involvement in solving regional problems in 2000s.
         However, the more interventionist policy of 2010s has negatively affected this foreign policy-
     economic development connection. As such, much recent developments indicate that the government
     sometimes tries to resolve the downturn in foreign direct investments by promising reforms
     and indicating new foreign policy that align closer with Turkey’s Western partners. These same
     considerations could be motivating the recent promises of economic, political and judicial reforms and
     the human rights action plan. President Erdoğan’s statement, after years of dissonance with the EU,
     that “We see ourselves in Europe, not anywhere else. We look to build our future with Europe” also
     demonstrates this.3 3 This sudden turn can be read in light of Turkey’s increased economic problems
     following the two sharp contractions in two years and the dire need for foreign direct investment.

     31 This argument is most frequently stated in relation to the EastMed issue(s) as was the case in our webinar; “Turkey in the
         Mediterranean” on October 12, 2020. The webinar was organized by the Project Team online to discuss relevant issues with experts
         of Turkish foreign an security policies based on a pre-structured discussion themes. It was not recorded and conducted on the basis
         of “Chattam House Rules”.
     32 See Uzgel, İ. (2010). “Relations with the USA and NATO, 1960-1980”. In: Oran (ed.), Turkish Foreign Policy, 1919-2006: 428-430.
     3 3 https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/diplomacy/turkey-to-build-its-future-with-europe-Erdoğan-says.
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According to Kouamé and Rab, Turkey needs to “refocus attention on structural reforms and build
back a resilient economic system that propels it into the high-income group of nations”, 3 4 which
should be seen in connection with the national role conceptions of the current ruling elite that sees
Turkey among the more influential global countries and also with the domestic power consolidation
wishes of the government.
   Finally, economic development links directly with the development of indigenous military
industrial complex, which is seen absolutely necessary if Turkey is to achieve autonomy in its foreign
and security policies. The development of a local defense industry is clearly linked to the improvement
in military capacity which then motivates more adventurous foreign policy initiatives in challenging
the status quo in Turkey’s neighborhood, such as in Syria, Libya, and the Caucasus.

Contemporary National Role Conceptions

 Studies that examine the national role conceptions of Turkey detect several alternative roles for
 Turkey.3 5 Turkey’s previous national role conceptions include Turkey as a “bridge between continents”,
“gateway of civilizations”, “model country” and “active independent country”.3 6 Further, there is a
 widely shared understanding of Turkey’s role that conceptualizes the country as a significant actor in
 all its regions – diplomatically, militarily, politically, and culturally. The current government has used
 this perception to steer Turkey towards activism in foreign policy in its neighborhood. Through our
 analysis, we found two current (additional) role conceptions: “Order Builder in the Neighborhood”
 and “Dynamic Regional Key Country.” Through our research and interviews we have identified some
 of the role-specific responsibilities/targets that the current Turkish leadership ascribe to:

•    Countering Russia in the Black Sea, the Caucasus, and the Levant region
•    Fighting radical extremist groups in the Middle East and North Africa
•    Balancing Iran’s influence in Syria and Iraq
•    Balancing US support for the PKK in the Middle East in general and in Northeast Syria in
     particular
•    Balancing Russian and China’s influences in Central Asia, especially with regards to Turkic states
•    Filling the gap created by the withdrawal of the US from, and the end of the attractiveness of
     the EU, in Turkey’s neighborhood
•    Opposing other regional countries (such as the UAE, Iran, and Saudi Arabia) filling the above-
     mentioned space.

From the above list it can be established that: (1) both the practice of balancing and the role as a
balancer is seen as important; (2) the Turkish leadership has an opportunistic outlook to increasing
its regional influence that can be achieved through active engagement, and; (3) Turkey views itself
as a responsible actor – THE actor –who, on behalf of the Western block, counters Russia and fights
terrorism in its neighborhood, while at the same time countering “imperialist” tendencies of other
states in Africa.

3 4 Kouamé, A. T. and H. Rab (2020). “Turkey’s economic recovery from COVID-19: Preparing for the long haul”. Brookings, Future
      Development, November 17, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2020/11/17/turkeys-economic-recovery-from-
      covid-19-preparing-for-the-long-haul/
3 5 National role conceptions is the way leaders perceive the position of both their own states and other states. See Holsti, K. J. (1970).
    “National Role Conceptions in the Study of Foreign Policy.” International Studies Quarterly 14 (3): 233–309. They are not just
      determined by leaders themselves, but also affected by the events that happen in the international relations between specific states.
      See Walker, S. J. (1987). “Role theory and Origins of Foreign Policy”. In: C. F. Hermann, C. Kegley and J. Rosenau (eds.), New
      Directions in the Study of Foreign Policy. London, Harper Collins: 269-284.
3 6 For a more in-depth study on national role conceptions of Turkish leaders, see Ö. Özdamar, B. T. Halistoprak and Ï. E. Sula (2014).
    “From Good Neighbor to Model: Turkey’s Changing Roles in the Middle East in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring”. Uluslararası
      İlişkiler 11 (42): 93-113.
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        These role perceptions go hand in hand with specific action-prescriptions. One interviewee argued
     that Turkey cannot solely rely on diplomacy to execute these role-specific targets and thus needs a
     significant military presence in these areas.3 7 The policy-making elites also underline that Turkey
     needs to actively use its intelligence apparatus to support its engagements in these regions. Turkey
     would thus be the regional power asserting itself as one of the primary actors that defines the outcome
     of major regional crises.3 8 Some of our interviewees also argued that Turkey has already been an
     important player in the regions that it is actively engaged today, and this connection shapes the way it
     acts. Some argued that the “Western countries are imperialist, their presence is foreign and therefore
     unsuccessful”, while Turkey’s presence is “non-imperialist, local and more natural”. Further arguing
     that, because of its Ottoman Empire history, Turkey has more links to the peoples of these regions.
         Others, however, argued that Turkey can still be seen as a foreign actor and an imperialist country,
     and that Turkey’s motivations are not much different than those of European countries. They recognize
     that, while the government might be motivated by justice and a need to help dispossessed peoples,
     Turkey’s leadership is also motivated by power, prestige, importance and a desire to rule over others –
     these motivations are not so different from other powers.39 We should note that these role perceptions
     are significantly shaped by the political polarization in Turkey. While the pro-government elites in
     Turkey see Turkey’s role as order-setting, the oppositional elites criticize this perception as being
     both imperialist and aggressive.

     Regional Security Actor

      There is a widespread perception amid the foreign policy community close to the government that
     “Turkey is an important regional security actor within its neighborhood”.4 0 This perception is somewhat
      based on a misleading understanding of the “regional security actor” concept. The pro-government
      pundits continuously use the concept to refer to Turkey having the power to decisively influence the
      security environment in its neighborhood. In theory, however, the concept is neutral and refers to
      any state whose actions and motivations in international security are heavily regional, as opposed
      to interregional or global security actors. In theory, all security concerns are primarily generated in
      the immediate neighborhood of any given security actor.41 Yet the influence and capacities of these
      actors significantly differ.
          Turkey has always been an important actor in its neighborhood and Turkey’s influence and
      footprint within regional security is significant – whether positive or negative. However, some of
      our interviewees argue that Turkey has recently shifted from being a “security provider” to being a
     “security actor.” In their framework, this shift refers to the fact that Turkey now defines the security
      scene around itself and its ability to affect the regional power balances. For example, they argue, Turkey
      previously contributed to the security of the Black Sea region “through the OSCE in times when
      the region witnessed destabilization” because of terrorism and refugees. Likewise, Turkey provided
      security to Europe by “acting as a security-wall between unstable regions and Europe” and through
      its NATO membership, “stood against Russia in the Southern Flank”. However, others suggested
      that Turkey had not been an autonomous actor and its importance and role in the geopolitics of its
      neighborhood before the AKP was conditioned by its connections with its Western partners. With the

     37 Online interview with a policy advisor to the President, August 2020.
     3 8 This and following quotations from online interviews with policy advisors and experts that holds views aligned with the President.
         August-November, 2020.
     39 This view was frequently expressed during interviews with experts in opposition to the current government, though few of policy
         advisors and experts that holds views aligned with the President also expressed such arguments. Online interviews, August-
         November 2020.
     4 0 This section includes analysis of the responses from online interviews in August-November 2020 to the questions, “Would you think
          it is accurate to describe Turkey as a ‘regional security actor’?” and “If so, how did Turkey become such an actor?”.
     41 For details of the regional security complex theory, see B. Buzan and O. Weaver (2003). Regions and Powers: The Structure of
         International Society. Cambridge, UK, The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge.
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